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July Resilient Plant

Monday, July 01, 2019
by Josh Steger | Director of Horticulture

Little Bluestem ‘Standing Ovation’, Schizachyrium scoparium

We’ve already covered some fantastic native perennial wildflowers and sedges, but what about grasses? This month we’re featuring Little Bluestem ‘Standing Ovation’ or Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’. Although this cultivar is not native, it very closely resembles the native straight species Little Bluestem. There are so many great things about this plant from how easy it is to grow to its incredible aesthetics all year long. As mentioned before, the straight species is a Wisconsin native and can be found in prairies, meadows and landscapes across the state. Both Standing Ovation and Little Bluestem can tolerate drier soils in full sun, making them a great choice for hills and dry landscapes. Once established they can grow to about 1 to 2 feet tall without flowers and up to 5 feet with flowers.

During spring and summer, Little Bluestem shows off  bluish-green foliage, which then transitions to a brown, orangey hue along with airy white flowers. Be sure to leave Standing Ovation up in autumn because of its glorious color and one more thing; it will not flop! We tried leaving the native species up over winter, but this one will not hold up to the snows unless the soil is really dry during the green season, so we recommend the ‘Standing Ovation’ cultivar if you want them to stay upright. In addition to its great aesthetics, Little Bluestem and Standing Ovation can provide food and shelter to various wildlife during the winter months. During the green season, Little Bluestem makes a great cut flower in an arrangement along with Gaura, Daisy and Gomphrena.

Not only does Bluestem provide a beautiful aesthetic in the garden, it provides many ecological benefits as well. Schizachyrium rhizomes create a carpet to prevent soils from becoming eroded. They are also clump-formers. As the plant matures, roots will develop into taproots making this a great plant choice for dry prairies and meadows. If you are looking to start your own meadow at home, Little Bluestem from seed is your best bet—just make sure to start this process sometime during the spring so they can get established throughout the year.  Combine this perennial with Echinacea and Whirled Milkweed for a naturalized look.     

  Little Bluestem and ‘Standing Ovation’ made our list of resiliency for many reasons! It not only brings structure and beauty to a space in summer, fall and winter, but it also brings many ecological benefits including food, shelter and erosion control. If you are curious to see what Schizachyrium scoparium looks like, come take a gander in the Italian Garden at Allen Centennial.  It can be found in the border surrounding the center bed amongst Eryngium ‘Big Blue’ and Yarrow ‘Moonshine’. The photo of Little bluestem is found along the railroad tracks off of Paterson Street.  If you’re totally sold, Flower Factory in Stoughton, WI will have an excellent variety to choose from whether it’s the straight species or cultivar.      

Tags: Garden Display and Design

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